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Ubisoft is set to launch itself into the toys-to-life market this fall with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a game that lets you build your dream ship before journeying into the stars to explore new worlds, scan unknown lifeforms and blast alien threats to smithereens. The game pretty much feels like a spiritual successor to Star Fox, something the developers have decided to lean into. In fact, if you play the game on the Nintendo Switch, you can even grab exclusive figures featuring Fox McCloud and his trademark Arwing ship.
During the Ubisoft E3 2018 games showcase, it was revealed that Fox McCloud will be making a guest appearance in Starlink, set to arrive on Oct. 16 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Obviously, Fox will only be available in the Switch version of the game, so you might want to plan your purchase accordingly.
What's interesting about this promotion is that it shows Nintendo is embracing the third party developer once again, capitalizing on the recent success of the Mario + Rabbids strategy game. Many folks who saw Starlink's initial reveal back in 2017 noted that the game looked a lot like a modern take on the Star Fox series, which was especially appealing since Star Fox Zero for the Wii U only received a lukewarm reception. You can check out the Starlink trailer below:
Since Starlink is a toys-to-life game, you'll be able to purchase the core package with a starter kit for building your own ship. No matter which platform you buy the game for, it will come with a controller mount made for placing your ship on. You snap on a pilot first, who grants the ship a special ability. Next, you snap a ship hull over the pilot. From there, you add wings and weapons. What's really cool is that you can swap out all of these parts on the fly and those alterations will happen in the game instantly. So, if you were just fighting an ice-based monster with your flamethrower and you suddenly come up against a flame-resistant baddie, you can quickly snap off the flamethrower and snap on a better weapon and keep right on fighting.
What's really smart about the design of Starlink is that you don't have to actually buy the physical toys. Instead, you can purchase digital versions of all of the ships, pilots, wings and weapons and simply make alterations in the menu. It's not as seamless but, based on my hands-on time with the game, it definitely gets the job done.
During my visit with Nintendo during E3 last week, I had the opportunity to dive into a full mission in Starlink featuring space flight, heading seamlessly onto a planet's surface and then battling aliens while cruising around at ground level.
Not to harp on the theme here, but I couldn't help but constantly compare the game to Star Fox, which is definitely a complement. While in orbit, the ship controls like pretty much any space fighter, with the player able to zip and dart around in any direction. Once you get down on the surface, though, the game switches to a slightly different set of controls, turning it into something of a third-person twin-stick shooter. This allows you to have precise firefights without worrying about zipping past your enemies and needing to pull off a big U-turn just to make another pass. Instead, you can hover around freely on the horizontal plane while still doing barrel rolls or hovering in order to dodge enemy threats.
What's extra cool is how Starlink utilizes those weapon options. At a glance, it's pretty easy to tell what type of element your enemies favor. Once you've got a feel for the threats, you simply pop on the weapons best suited to the job and fire away. In no time I was blasting my way through standard baddies, destroying massive machines and even blasting the weak points on a huge alien arachnid.
It's hard to get a strong feel for a game based on just a single mission, but Starlink definitely appears to be coming along nicely. And, again, if you've been hankering for some Star Fox goodness, this might just do the trick.